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Old 06-14-2016, 02:22 PM
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Alpine stereo is terrible: advice

I know there's a lot of info on here regarding stereos/speakers, but I wanted to see if others have had a similar experience as mine and if they have any advice. I upgraded to the Alpine system on my '16 Rubicon in hopes of a quality system. There is no question the system is loud and the integrated sub is a nice touch, but the sound quality is terrible. I'm no audiophile, but I'm coming from German cars with excellent, at least in comparison, audio systems. The Alpine is all base, but there's really no comfortable setting on the equalizer to have balanced sound. I put the treble up and the base down. Played with the all combos of the base/mid/treble. Just doesn't sound good, despite being loud.
I'm not a person who want ear popping base and shaking the car. In terms of power, I'm happy with the system. But what are my best options to improve the quality of the sound? This is a daily driver for me, so the stereo is on all of the time.

1. Replace head unit with something that has more equalizer controls
Is this enough to fix the issue? Is it just a lack of poor controls

2. Replace just the speakers with higher quality speakers?
This would be ideal in terms of cost and ease. But will the receiver/amps still limit the improvement?

3. Overhaul
Do I need to replace head unit, speaker, and/or amps all together?

Sorry if this is all somewhat repetitive, but nice to have the input all in one place.

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Old 06-14-2016, 02:25 PM
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Sorry for all the typos: Bass not base lol

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Old 06-14-2016, 02:43 PM   #3
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Speakers are far more important to good sound than the head unit is. Make sure the speakers aren't the kind that require a lot of power before they sound good. Without an aux amplifier, the speakers should have a minimum Sensitivity rating of 90 dB or higher. Their wattage rating only being the max wattage they can handle before distorting, not how loud or how powerful they'll be.
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Old 06-15-2016, 02:26 PM   #4
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Clearly the best sounding system will be a complete overhaul.

I personally think the factory head units sound terrible. Garbage in, garbage out. The only decent sounding Jeep head unit I have heard was run through a Audison Bit One but that cost more than a new head unit so why not just replace it?

While it is an improvement from the past, the Alpine system sounds boomy and sloppy to me too, it's a shame they don't have a radio delete option when you order a Jeep.
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Old 06-16-2016, 10:22 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Mattk11 View Post
Clearly the best sounding system will be a complete overhaul.

I personally think the factory head units sound terrible. Garbage in, garbage out. The only decent sounding Jeep head unit I have heard was run through a Audison Bit One but that cost more than a new head unit so why not just replace it?

While it is an improvement from the past, the Alpine system sounds boomy and sloppy to me too, it's a shame they don't have a radio delete option when you order a Jeep.
Boomy? Sounds like you have acoustic issues. What are you running, soft or hard top? 2 or 4 door?
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Old 06-16-2016, 04:10 PM   #6
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I'll take a decent head unit with good aftermarket speakers any day over a high-zoot head unit with the factory speakers.

I built my first stereo amplifier and acoustic suspension speakers back in the 60's and have built and owned a lot of high-end audio equipment and speakers ever since. To me, speakers are the most responsible for good sound and I dare say I've yet to meet a human who could consistently pick out a bleeding-edge amplifier over a decent quality amplifier when the available wattage from both is suitable for the speakers at hand and the controls were set for a flat response.

Some people feel they have super-human hearing, like the kid salesman at an audio store pushing Monster Cable speaker wiring on me that was the gauge of car jumper cables. He swore he could easily tell the difference with them vs. standard gauge speaker wiring. Until I took control of the switch he was using to switch speaker wires and I tripped him up... he got to the point he lost track and eventually got to the point he was swearing the skinny wiring sounded better. It was a big lesson for him.
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Old 06-16-2016, 04:19 PM   #7
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My 09 came with the Infinty system and the 730N Uconnect. Touch screen died and I replaced it with a Pioneer AVH-X2700BS and I could not believe the difference in the sound quality of the new deck running the stock Infinity speakers with nothing but the tweeter mod and the speaker mod. Wife is looking into a new one and usually I make sure that we have the best stereo that the factory offers but not this time. Get one with the 130 and I will do the swap.
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Old 06-17-2016, 02:14 PM   #8
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My 09 came with the Infinty system and the 730N Uconnect. Touch screen died and I replaced it with a Pioneer AVH-X2700BS and I could not believe the difference in the sound quality of the new deck running the stock Infinity speakers with nothing but the tweeter mod and the speaker mod. Wife is looking into a new one and usually I make sure that we have the best stereo that the factory offers but not this time. Get one with the 130 and I will do the swap.
This.

The difference is even more pronounced with the newest Alpine system because of the added EQ and bass control paired with better than average speakers and sub.

The great thing is if you get a 430 or 730 there are enough people that don't care what their sound system sounds like but really want the factory look even though the technology and UI date back to pre-2007. That means you can fetch almost enough selling it to pay for a really good aftermarket head unit.
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Old 06-17-2016, 02:32 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Jerry Bransford View Post
I'll take a decent head unit with good aftermarket speakers any day over a high-zoot head unit with the factory speakers. I built my first stereo amplifier and acoustic suspension speakers back in the 60's and have built and owned a lot of high-end audio equipment and speakers ever since. To me, speakers are the most responsible for good sound and I dare say I've yet to meet a human who could consistently pick out a bleeding-edge amplifier over a decent quality amplifier when the available wattage from both is suitable for the speakers at hand and the controls were set for a flat response. Some people feel they have super-human hearing, like the kid salesman at an audio store pushing Monster Cable speaker wiring on me that was the gauge of car jumper cables. He swore he could easily tell the difference with them vs. standard gauge speaker wiring. Until I took control of the switch he was using to switch speaker wires and I tripped him up... he got to the point he lost track and eventually got to the point he was swearing the skinny wiring sounded better. It was a big lesson for him.
Jerry I agree with you on amplifiers and wires. While there are a lot of smoke and mirrors in car stereo amplification you can find very good deals if you go by tested specs vs claimed specs. A great example is the $200 Precision Power Phantom series, you can get a 5 channel amp that will do 70x4 + 440w RMS tested on a dyno that sounds just as good as amps 4 times the price. There are also some real pieces of crap that sound terrible and put out half their claimed output.

Don't even get me started on cables. I haven't bought anything from Monster or more expensive in 30 years. A good quality twisted pair interconnect and even twisted speaker wire will keep unwanted noise out of your system. You don't have to break the bank to find it.

Where we disagree is source. If the head unit distorts at 80%, puts out limited range audio or adds a bunch of unwanted, unadjustable eq there is a very audible difference. I've done a ton of Jeep sound systems and have NEVER heard one with the factory head unit that sounds as good as one with a high quality aftermarket HU. The only one that did had a Audison Bit One summing processor that cost more than $1500 to buy, install and tune. You can buy two HUs for that. Like I stated before, garbage in, garbage out.

I was born in the 60s and didn't start doing custom car audio installs until around 1981 so I probably don't know as much as you do.
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Old 06-17-2016, 06:12 PM   #10
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If the head unit distorts at 80%, puts out limited range audio or adds a bunch of unwanted, unadjustable eq there is a very audible difference.
Which is why I said the EQ controls need to be set so the response is flat and the power levels have to be similar so as to not introduce extra distortion by running one at a higher volume than it was designed for.

And by flat, I mean there is no EQ in the circuit, no 'loudness' switch turned on, bass/midrange/treble controls at their neutral positions, etc. Only when the amps are compared lke that can a fair comparison be made. I can fool nearly anyone into liking a cheap amp over a high-quality amp by doing nothing but tweaking the controls so neither amplifier is providing a flat response across the spectrum.
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Old 06-18-2016, 02:13 AM   #11
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I just went through this debate prior to ordering my 2016 JKU. I thought the Alpine system in the demo JKU at the dealer sounded terrible. The sales guy kept turning it up to impress me, and I kept cringing.

That said, I decided to order the base system, and will replace everything. Mine will be my daily driver, and music quality is important to me - top on or off.

Going with:
Pioneer head unit (AVH-4200NEX)
JL HD900/5 amp
Focal speakers for mains and rears
JL sub in custom enclosure under driver seat
Lots of Hushmat and polyfill

I use a combination of Spotify and Deezer for streaming music, and the Pioneer also supports FLAC files, which sound amazing with the above setup.

If I had ordered the Alpine system, I'd first try swapping out the head unit to improve the sound. If that's not enough, try swapping the mains and adding some sound insulation. The Alpine rears and sub should suffice.

Good luck!
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Old 06-19-2016, 08:50 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by Mattk11 View Post
This.

The difference is even more pronounced with the newest Alpine system because of the added EQ and bass control paired with better than average speakers and sub.

The great thing is if you get a 430 or 730 there are enough people that don't care what their sound system sounds like but really want the factory look even though the technology and UI date back to pre-2007. That means you can fetch almost enough selling it to pay for a really good aftermarket head unit.
I know. The motivation for swapping was that the touch screen died on the 730 and if I had known how much better it would have sounded with the new Pioneer, I would have done it much sooner and probably gotten a nicer Pioneer deck. I got $100 for the 730 off of ebay with the bad screen.
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Old 06-30-2016, 10:56 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Daveinfrisco View Post
I just went through this debate prior to ordering my 2016 JKU. I thought the Alpine system in the demo JKU at the dealer sounded terrible. The sales guy kept turning it up to impress me, and I kept cringing.

That said, I decided to order the base system, and will replace everything. Mine will be my daily driver, and music quality is important to me - top on or off.

Going with:
Pioneer head unit (AVH-4200NEX)
JL HD900/5 amp
Focal speakers for mains and rears
JL sub in custom enclosure under driver seat
Lots of Hushmat and polyfill

I use a combination of Spotify and Deezer for streaming music, and the Pioneer also supports FLAC files, which sound amazing with the above setup.

If I had ordered the Alpine system, I'd first try swapping out the head unit to improve the sound. If that's not enough, try swapping the mains and adding some sound insulation. The Alpine rears and sub should suffice.

Good luck!
i went with the focal speaker and love them big money for them but worth it to me i had the alpine system did not like it only thing is i still got the factory head unit maybe next to go
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Old 06-30-2016, 10:56 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Daveinfrisco View Post
I just went through this debate prior to ordering my 2016 JKU. I thought the Alpine system in the demo JKU at the dealer sounded terrible. The sales guy kept turning it up to impress me, and I kept cringing.

That said, I decided to order the base system, and will replace everything. Mine will be my daily driver, and music quality is important to me - top on or off.

Going with:
Pioneer head unit (AVH-4200NEX)
JL HD900/5 amp
Focal speakers for mains and rears
JL sub in custom enclosure under driver seat
Lots of Hushmat and polyfill

I use a combination of Spotify and Deezer for streaming music, and the Pioneer also supports FLAC files, which sound amazing with the above setup.

If I had ordered the Alpine system, I'd first try swapping out the head unit to improve the sound. If that's not enough, try swapping the mains and adding some sound insulation. The Alpine rears and sub should suffice.

Good luck!
i went with the focal speaker and love them big money for them but worth it to me i had the alpine system did not like it only thing is i still got the factory head unit maybe next to go
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Old 06-30-2016, 10:57 PM   #15
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sorry about the double post
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Old 07-11-2016, 10:05 AM   #16
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Biggest issue I've seen with the Alpine is the lack of proper tweeters apart from the "full range" mid drivers. Need to tweak the highs slightly. Sounds OK with mp3's, as good as mp3's can sound really. Satellite & AM sounds like death as per normal, and FM isn't too shabby as it is limited to 15Khz anyways. I'm planning on building up some HF X-overs & popping in some tweeters. Pretty sure it will help with CD/MP3 in the very least. Might help out FM somewhat as well, but less convinced there.
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Old 08-07-2016, 04:33 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by Daveinfrisco View Post
I just went through this debate prior to ordering my 2016 JKU. I thought the Alpine system in the demo JKU at the dealer sounded terrible. The sales guy kept turning it up to impress me, and I kept cringing.

That said, I decided to order the base system, and will replace everything. Mine will be my daily driver, and music quality is important to me - top on or off.

Going with:
Pioneer head unit (AVH-4200NEX)
JL HD900/5 amp
Focal speakers for mains and rears
JL sub in custom enclosure under driver seat
Lots of Hushmat and polyfill

I use a combination of Spotify and Deezer for streaming music, and the Pioneer also supports FLAC files, which sound amazing with the above setup.

If I had ordered the Alpine system, I'd first try swapping out the head unit to improve the sound. If that's not enough, try swapping the mains and adding some sound insulation. The Alpine rears and sub should suffice.

Good luck!
This is actually pretty helpful.

I got the Alpine system in my '15 JKU and can't stand the audio coming through over bluetooth. I know my source is fine, but I'm thinking the stock HU is the garbage component in the setup, so I'm looking to start by swapping that out for the Pioneer 4200nex in the near future.

If I'm still not satisfied, I know what to check for next!

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